Saturday, January 7, 2017

Think of the Money I Save: A Review of "Pinfall"

Arrow Video recently released a 3000-unit limited-edition Blu-ray of Creepshow 2, and given that it had a handful of new bonus features on it, I -- being the sucker I am for maintaining a complete-films-of-King library at all times, and in the best possible editions -- was inclined to buy a copy.

What clinched the deal for me, however, was the news that the limited edition would contain a comic-book adaptation of "Pinfall."

What, you might ask, is "Pinfall"?

Well, kiddies, once upon a time, Creepshow 2 was intended to be similar in structure to the first film: i.e., five segments with a sixth consisting of bookend material.  And indeed, the screenplay for Creepshow 2 was written in that fashion, with the five segments as follows (note that I can't swear they were in this order):
  • bookend #1
  • Old Chief Wood'nhead
  • The Cat From Hell
  • Pinfall
  • The Raft
  • The Hitch-Hiker
  • bookend #2

The bookends, "Old Chief Woodn'head," "The Raft," and "The Hitch-Hiker" were all that remained once the budget for the film was finalized.  "The Cat From Hell" would eventually be filmed (using Romero's screenplay) as part of the Tales from the Darkside movie, but "Pinfall" lapsed into obscurity.  If you were a hardcore King fan, though, you might catch an occasional mention of it.
For example, in his 1991 book The Complete Stephen King Encyclopedia (also known by the title The Shape Under the Sheet), Stephen J. Spignesi devotes five pages to "Pinfall," providing a detailed plot synopsis, an extensive list of the characters, and so forth.
" 'Pinfall,' " writes Spignesi, "appeared in the first draft script of the film, and was written for the screen by George Romero.  'Pinfall' was based on a short story (still unpublished) by Stephen King."  That's an important point, and evidence indicates that Spignesi is not entirely correct.  Romero certainly did write the screenplay, and he did so based on story treatments from King; but this does not imply that King has ever written "Pinfall" in narrative prose fashion (as a short story of the type that would appear in, say, Skeleton Crew).  I mean, for all I know, he might have; but as far as I'm aware, there is no direct evidence to verify it.
And that shouldn't surprise anyone.  After all, have you ever read the short-story version of "Old Chief Wood'nhead" or "The Hitch-Hiker"?  Or, for that matter, "Father's Day," "Something to Tide You Over," or "They're Creeping Up On You" (all from the first Creepshow)?  No, you haven't; and that's because no such stories have ever been published.  It's quite common for screenplays to be written based on extensive outlines or treatments, and the official screen credit for those pre-screenplay writings -- which can (obviously) be highly impactful on the finished film -- reads as "story by" whoever wrote them.
So I'd speculate that what happened was this: Spignesi saw a reference to "Pinfall" in some magazine or other source as having been scripted by Romero from a story by King, and made the logical (if prose- and not film-centric) assumption that King had an unpublished short story named "Pinfall" in his trunk somewhere.  And I say again: for all I know, he does.  But I doubt it, and will continue to do so until King or somebody who works for (or on behalf of) him says otherwise.
Spignesi continues: "The story is an E.C. Comics tale come to life, and the rumor is that one of the reasons it wasn't included in the final version of the film is that the gruesome special effects would have pushed the production way over budget." 
We'll come back to Spignesi, but first, I want to check out what a few other King scholars have to say on the subject of "Pinfall."  I'm kind of hoping that in doing so, I'll figure out where, specifically, I first about this curiosity of a story.
  • In his 1991 book The Stephen King Story, George Beahm, in the midst of discussing in-development films, says: "Creepshow 3 is forthcoming from Laurel Entertainment.  Among the stories may be 'Pinfall,' an original King story which originally was slated to be in Creepshow 2.  A cross between Night of the Living Dead and an E.C. comic story ('Foul Play'), 'Pinfall' seems perfectly appropriate for this anthology series."
  • Spignesi strikes again in his 1998 book The Lost Work of Stephen King, which contains a two-page entry for "Pinfall" and commits the egregious foul of not mentioning George Romero anywhere.  He does say that it was part of a screenplay based on an unpublished King short story, but anyone not already in the know would likely infer that King himself had written the screenplay.  This is especially true given that Spignesi says that "King's special touch is clearly evident in the stage directions in the script."  He goes on then to quote a brief passage from the screenplay; I'm going to come back to that in a bit, so hold tight.  But for now, I'll say this: the passage does indeed read like something King might have written.  So either Romero was doing a very credible King impersonation, or perhaps he was himself quoting King, from the story treatment King wrote.  Who can say for sure?  (By the way, lest it sound as if I'm down on Spignesi, let me say that this book had a BIG impact on me when I read it.  I already knew that there were several King novels and stories which had never been published, but I had no idea the extent of it.  This book gave a much more detailed set of plot summaries than any other source I'd ever seen, plus mentioned all sorts of things I'd never heard of; so when I read this sucker, I did so approximately as rapt with attention as when I read an actual novel by King.  Let's not sell that short; this book was a fucking treasure to me.)
  • In the terrific 2001 book Creepshows: The Illustrated Stephen King Movie Guide (which covers all of King's movies to that date), Stephen Jones gives us some marvelous insights into Creepshow 2 as a whole.  "Two of the stories were original, left over from the first Creepshow (1982), plus 'The Raft' (first written in 1968 as 'The Float' and possibly published in Adam), which a bored King re-wrote from memory during the final editing of Creepshow."  
  • Jones quotes an interview King gave to the magazine Starburst:  "What happened with Creepshow 2 is that Richard Rubinstein, who produced Creepshow, said: 'Will you write the screenplay?'  But George wasn't going to direct the picture, and so it made me very nervous about writing it.  So we did Creepshow 2 on the basis that we were a team, and that we were going to do it like that.  What we finally decided on was that I would do a scenario, which I did, this time for three stories plus a much more complex wraparound story than the one that was on the first film, that George would do the screenplay, and then we would have a mutual consultation on directors."
  • Jones continues: "After Warner Bros, who released the first film, decided to pass on the project, two other stories Romero had scripted for the film were cut by producer Rubinstein, who recycled one of them, 'Cat from Hell,' in his later anthology Tales from the Darkside: The Movie (1990).  'Pinfall,' the fifth tale about a zombie bowling team, still has yet to appear."
  • Jones quotes Romero from an interview he gave Gary L. Wood in Cinefantastique: "I wrote it from a couple of pages that Steve had sketched out," he says.  "It was my total favorite.  It'll probably turn up in another movie somewhere."  I have a decent collection of Cinefantastique mags, and this sounded familiar to me, so I went hunting for the source of those Romero quotes.  And found them in this issue:

We've talked about this issue before: in this post.  I mentioned at that time something which I will restate now: this issue of Cinefantastique is a goldmine for King fans.  And yet, I unaccountably did not mention the four paragraphs about "Pinfall" contained in one sidebar!  I can only conclude that in skimming its contents for quotes and tidbits to pass along to y'all, I simply didn't stumble across this stuff.
I apologize for that omission.  We regret the error, and appreciate the opportunity to make it right by tossing up a scan of the entire page:
By the way: mission accomplished!  This is unquestionably the source from which I first learned of "Pinfall" 's existence.  I'd thought it might be The Stephen King Story, but that didn't get published until November of 991; so at minimum, I had this magazine in my hands nine months before I had that book.  I can still remember seeing it on the newsstand in one of the local bookstores; the cover drew me in like a tractor beam on the Death Star pulling the Millennium Falcon.  Ain't goin' nowhere.
The late, great Rocky Wood (along with his co-authors, David Rawsthorne & Norma Blackburn) had the following to say on the subject of "Pinfall" in the 2005 first edition of his indispensable Stephen King: Uncollected, Unpublished:
Pinfall is a screenplay segment written for the movie, Creepshow 2.  However, there is much speculation as to exactly how much, if anything, King wrote of it.  It seems certain the story idea was his -- Spignesi states the segment was "based on on an unpublished King short story."  Copies of the screenplay segment, which was cut from the film, circulate but it is far from certain that King did in fact write it.  We therefore made a decision not to classify it as a King work for [our purposes].
It was a bad call, Ripley; it was a bad call.  For one thing, direct quotes from Romero specify that he wrote his screenplay based on a story sketch by King.  I mean, we don't have anybody point-blank saying that King wrote the entirety of the plot, from start to finish and with the middle in the middle; but given that that is what a story treatment is in Hollywood terms, I don't think there's much doubting it.  Did Romero have input?  Yeah, probably.  But the story -- is likely the case with "Old Chief Wood'nhead" and "The Hitch-Hiker" as well -- is largely King's, in my estimation.  All the evidence points in that direction.
I suspect that Wood's reluctance to call "Pinfall" a King work goes back to the fact that Romero has sole writing credit on the screenplay.  Wood is considering the screenplay itself, as a written document.  And from that standpoint, that's fair.  However, screenplays do not exist in the same universe as novels and stories when it comes to credit; in my opinion, any screenplay based on a story by somebody else -- by which I mean, a screenplay based on a written-for-the-film story outline or treatment -- should be considered a co-authored thing.  "Pinfall," in other words, should be considered a collaboration between King and Romero.  That's exactly what it was; why would you then consider it to be anything else?  You can't take Romero out of that equation; but you can't take King out of it, either.
Wood's judgment on "Pinfall" is delivered in a section of his book called "The Lost and Hidden Works," about various works which are known of by King scholars but which are entirely inaccessible.  For the 2012 fourth edition of the book, Wood had not changed his stance on "Pinfall," but he had added a bit of info: in a back-and-forth series of Q&A sessions with Wood, "King confirmed he wrote a 'synopsis' for it, as well as for the Old Chief Woodenhead" [sic] "section of the same movie; and confirmed he did not write either screenplay segment."
So Wood wasn't budging from his stance that this stuff didn't count as King.
In his 2014 book Stephen King Films FAQ, Scott Von Doviak quotes King himself from an interview conducted by Paul Gagne: "I sat down and did a sort of notebook," he says, referring to the story outline for Creepshow 2.  "I pretty much scripted the wraparound story, where this kid is chased by a bunch of juvenile delinquents, except they changed it from live action to animation."  King continues (referring to Romero), "The notes I sent him were pretty detailed, and they even had some dialogue, but George really carried it off."
Von Doviak does not list the source of the Gagne interview.  I had a feeling I'd seen it somewhere, though, so I did some digging, and found it in this book:
It made its first appearance in this 1989 collection of interviews (which, along with its sister book Bare Bones, is a must-own for King fans).  Von Doviak omitted a few important lines from his quotations, so let's have a look at the unexpurgated King quotes about "Pinfall":
I sat down and did sort of a notebook.  I don't know how other people's film treatments look, but I knew what we were after, particularly after the first film.  I pretty much scripted the wraparound story, where this kid is chased by a bunch of juvenile delinquents, except they changed it from live action to animation.  It follows what I did pretty closely, though.  In terms of the stories, I wanted to start off with a Jack Davis kind of story.  It was about a dead bowling team.
Gagne points out that this sounds similar to the Davis story "Foul Play."
Yeah, you bet it was!  Anyways, I put down about seven or eight ideas.  Then I did sort of the same thing I did with George when he and I first got together -- I just asked him to pick whatever he liked.  The notes I sent him were pretty detailed, and they even had some dialogue, but George really carried it off.  He scripted four, including the bowling story, the hitchhiker story, "The Raft," which is based on one of the short stories in Skeleton Crew, and "Chief Woodenhead," an original story about a wooden Indian that comes to life.  I had actually started that one as a short story, but it fit the film perfectly so we used it there.  Anyway, George sent me the script, and I suggested some cuts and some changes, and some of them were made and some were not.  He's a darn good writer.  The bowling story was later cut before the film went into production.
A few things about all this stand out to me:
  • When King says "I put down seven or eight ideas" and asked Romero to "pick whatever he liked," there is room for debate as to what King means.  If you look at it one way, it sounds like he's saying he sent Romero seven or eight ideas about "Pinfall," from which Romero later developed the story; but I believe that would be a misreading of the quote.  I think it more likely that what King means to say is, the notebook/treatment he sent Romero contained seven or eight ideas for Creepshow 2 story segments, from which Romero was free to pick for scripting.  This is an important distinction; if one read the quote the other way, one could easily inflate Romero's contribution to the plotting of the "Pinfall" story.  I think it's clear from King specifying his notes were "pretty detailed" that that would be a mistake; it's just as true that King's words indicate that Romero's contributions should not be ignored.  That's why I consider "Pinfall" to be a co-written work.
  • Interesting that "Old Chief Wood'nhead" was at least partially written as a proper narrative-prose story.  Man, I'd love to read whatever fragments of that King finished!
  • Have you noticed that there has been no mention of "The Cat from Hell"?  It is a known fact that Romero scripted it as part of the Creepshow 2 screenplay, but King mentions only four stories having been scripted.  Interesting!

So there we have it, folks.  An incomplete history of the King community's knowledge of "Pinfall," I'm sure; but a fairly complete one of my own knowledge of it.  The common denominator: this was a story that did not even really exist, and was best considered as a rumor moreso than as a story.  Getting my hands on a copy of the screenplay seemed unlikely; and that meant that the story synopsis in Spignesi's book was the closest I was ever likely to come to getting to experience it for myself.
And that's why, when the limited-edition Blu-ray of Creepshow 2 was revealed to contain a comic-book adaptation of "Pinfall," I jumped on it as quick as humanly possible.  Finally, an official adaptation of a King (and Romero) story that I expected never to see/read!  An adaptation in a medium other than the one for which it was intended, true; but still, better than no adaptation at all.
My only regret is that I didn't buy two copies.  I knew that I'd want to scan the comic for my own digital archives, and so that if I ever wrote about it for my blog, I'd able to cite specific visual examples.  What I didn't consider was that the comic would be in the form of a bound softcover book of over fifty pages; great for the collector, and therefore a very welcome sight, but bad for the scanner.  Impossible to bend the pages far back enough to properly scan them without utterly wrecking the book's spine.  And while I keenly wanted to scan it, no way was I destroying the book to do so.
I tried to buy a second copy once I received the first, but apparently, it had sold out by then.  So I compromised: I scanned the book's pages as well as I possibly could, and told myself that if it was ever reprinted, I'd get a copy I could  sacrifice, and produce some better scans.

All that preamble having now been delivered, let's turn our attention to "Pinfall" itself as a story/screenplay/comic.  The question is the eternal question: is it any good?

Yeah!  It's a fuckin' hoot, is what it is.  Out of the scripted Creepshow 2 segment, it's arguably the closest to the original Creepshow in tone; it's got the ghost-zombie vibe of "Something to Tide You Over," the ridiculous humor of "The Lonesome Death of Jordy Verrill," and the bad-guy-gets-his ethos of the overall project.  I'd wager that if it had been filmed by Romero as part of the original Creepshow, it would have been the standout segment.  I'm less sure that director Michael Gornick would have pulled it off for Creepshow 2 (especially given the reduced budget); but I like that movie, so I'm guessing it would have been solid at worst.

In deciding how I should approach reviewing a comic that is, by definition, going to be read by a preposterously small number of people, I was initially stumped.  I considered just putting all my scans up, so people could read it for themselves.  I'd have enough commentary and analysis that I could probably cry "fair use" on that one.  But it always makes me feel nervous to do anything that seems that close to copyright infringement, so I didn't go there.

As I consulted the Spignesi encyclopedia, a solution presented itself.  I could quote extensively from his synopsis, and use panels from my scans of the comic to illustrate the quotes.  Then, having provided a groundwork from which to discuss it, I could do some analysis of the story.

Sounds like a plan, right?  Well, let's get cracking.  In a few cases, I've borrowed images that Mayoh put on his website; you'll know them when you see them on account of how not-shitty they look.

Here we go!  The words will be Spignesi's, including occasional quotations from the Romero screenplay, and supplemented by occasional interjections from yours truly.  Hopefully my formatting will help, rather than hinder, understanding who is saying what.

"Pinfall" is the story of two bowling teams, the prim, proper, and Yuppyish Regi-Men, and the loud, blue-collar, beer-drinking, cigar-smoking Bad News Boors.  The Regi-Men "look like junior executives from the Silicone [sic] Valley, late thirties to early forties with neat razor-cuts blown dry, and each with a Tom Selleck moustache."  The Boors, on the other hand, "look like the bowlers we might have pictured in our minds.  All five of them have pear-shaped torsos and orang-utan [sic] arms.  They look like Jack Davis drawings.  They all have terminal beard shadow and they're swilling Utica Club beer and smoking hand-shaped Parodi's that look (and smell) like poodle turds."

The Big Ten Lanes is the setting for league bowling.  As we enter the Lanes, we hear the noise and see the teams.  The first team we see is the Regi-Men.  As described in the script, they are insufferable.  And particularly unbearable is the Regi-Men's team captain Reggie Rambeaux.  Reggie, the ultimate pompous asshole, is "clearly pleased with himself, and not just because he bowled a strike.  He's always pleased with himself.  He likes himself a lot, and that, in part, makes us not like him at all." 

The Regi-Men "study and practice," and take the game -- and themselves -- very seriously.  To these guys, bowling is a fine art...a precision sport, and they do not take kindly to interruptions or distractions when they're playing. 
The Bad News Boors, on the other hand, are your basic all-American blue-collar bowling team.  They drink beer, smoke cigars, high-five their asses off, and generally have a great time on their one night a week out.  They don't practice, they're all overweight, and yet they're consistently in the lead among the leagues' teams. 

On the night "Pinfall" opens, the two teams are at it hot and heavy when Reggie Rambeaux, the captain of the Regi-Men, is interrupted during his shot by an old guy who is bowling by himself on the lane next to the Regi-Men. 
This is J. Fred MacDugal, an "old geezer," who has bowled at least two games a night for seventy years. 
The Regi-Men immediately pounce on the vulnerable old man, and the Boors, seeing an innocent being pummeled by bullies, jump to his defense.  They give MacDugal a shirt, a beer, and make him an honorary member of the Bad News Boors. 
The Regi-Men are incensed, yet they stop short of an actual fistfight, instead choosing to pary and jab with prissy verbal assaults: 
"REGGIE:  Why is it that lazy, illiterate, slovenly, good-for-nothing imbeciles are always so righteously proud of their stations in life?" 
The Regi-Men agree: 
"REGI-MEN:  How true, how true.  Don't waste your time on these slobs, Reggie.  Don't waste your breath.  Don't let them sucker you into something you'll regret.  They're beneath you, they're cretins, animals." 
After Reggie rants and raves in a high-pitched voice about wanting to win the championship, Chooch Mandolino coalesces the philosophy of the Boors (and Stephen King??): 
"CHOOCH:  Maybe the rest of us don't give a shit about a lousy little statue from a Poduck bowling league.  Maybe we think it's more important to have a good time with some good buddies, drink a few beers, have a couple laffs." 

The Boors let MacDugal throw a couple balls, and on his last shot he has a massive coronary, and ends up flying down the lane with the ball and finally making the 7-10 split...the hard way. 

The next day, the papers reveal that MacDugal was worth billions of dollars and that in his will, he had bequeathed $1 million to the Big Ten Lanes team that ended up in first place at the end of the season in which he expired.  

In this version, the prize is $5 million, not $1 million.

The competition boils down to the Boors vs. the Regi-Men.  The Regi-Men realize that the Boors are their only real competition for the money, but the Boors, as usual, don't take either the competition -- or the money -- very seriously. 
The Regi-Men, on the other hand, take the whole thing very seriously...seriously enough in fact to take steps to make sure that they are the guaranteed winners of MacDugal's million. 
A few nights before the final games, while the Boors are puring down a few cold ones in Tony's Temporary Work-Stoppage, Reggie loosens the bolts of the right front wheel of the Boors' old Econoline van. 

On their way home, the wheel flies off, the van goes off a cliff and explodes, and the next day the Regi-Men show up at the Big Ten Lanes wearing black armbands in mourning for their fallen comrades.  They diligently play the part of saddened warriors who are nonetheless continuing on because they know that their colleagues would have wanted them to. 
Only the Regi-Men -- and the now-dead Boors -- know the truth.
Late one night, after all the teams have finished bowling, Reggie keeps his teammates at the Lanes practicing.  After all, you can't get ahead without "study and practice, study and practice, study and..."

Suddenly, the lights go out. 
The Regi-Men are all alone in a darkened bowling alley in the wee hours of the morning. 
And they've got blood on their hands. 
And now they've also got visitors. 

That's right, the Boors are back in town, folks. 

Let's also remember apostrophes.  Otherwise: awesome!  (NOT awesome: this scan.  Sorry, guys, I did the best I could.)

Yes, the Bad News Boors returned from the dead to exact revenge from the Regi-Men, and also to bowl one last game...this time using the arms and legs of the Regi-Men as the pins, and Reggie Rambeaux' head as the ball.

Following the format of the rest of his book, Spignesi then includes encyclopedia-style entries on the people, places, and things included in the story.  He reserves many of the details of the story for these sections.  Let's have a look at a few tidbits:

  • On the subject of MacDugal: "the script described him as 'an old Scot who would have died years ago but wasn't willing to pay the stiff rates for a funeral.  We're talkin' old, friends.' "
  • The way Reggie addresses MacDugal initially is given as follows: "Mr. Muggs, I presume."  Spignesi does not explain this reference, which might have been a bit obscure even for 1987.  In 2017, it's extremely obscure, but that's what Wikipedia is for, right?  And if not Wikipedia, then blogs like this one.

some dude and J. Fred Muggs

  • On the subject of Chooch Mandolino: "He was a 'Doonkey Kong look-alike' with a 'Neanderthal brow.' "  I'd like now to take a moment to say that the name "Chooch Mandolino" is now one of my all-time favorite names.  If I could get a dog, I'd go find the mutt-iest mutt I could find, and I'd name him Chooch Mandolino.  We'd frolic and gambol, and I'd feed him pork skins and cheese, and we'd have a grand old time.
  • Romero describes MacDugal's death: "He slides over the slick boards, reaching the end of the alley, and for the first time in his life, he makes a seven-ten spare.  His ball takes out the ten, his head takes out the seven."  To this, Chooch says, "Holy shit!  That's what you call makin' it the hard way!" 

I'm curious to know why the comic-book version doesn't include J. Fred's body making the 7-10 split.  I kind of miss that moment, knowing now that it's supposed to be there.

  • Reggie has his Men chant a limerick while jogging as part of their practice, uh ... regimen ... and it is given as: "There was an old guy named Dave / Who kept a dead whore in a cave / He'd often admit / 'I'm a bit of a shit / but think of the money I save.' " 

I just about had a fit I laughed so hard when I got to that limerick.

  • Romero's script, describing the Boors' crash: "KA-BLOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOEY!  An enormous explosion occurs halfway down the cliffside and an orange and black cloud that looks like napalm appears.  That cloud seems to roll like a runaway beachball down, down, down toward the valley where other orange clouds are belching out of the smokestacks and furnaces of the steel mill."  
  • Here's a marvelous description of Reggie from Romero's screenplay: as they watched the Boors' van go sailing off the cliff, Reggie's eyes had "that psychotic glaze that we saw earlier when the quartz light drove him to distraction.  A switch thrown somewhere in his brain has left him in Norman Bates land.  The mill-furnace flames reflecting in the windshield look like the fires of hell and they seem to be consuming the wide-eyes Reggie, who is now in a CLOSEUP on the other side of the glass."

  • Spignesi reports that "Reggie told a reporter that if the Regi-Men won the tournament, they would buy each of the Boors a 'specially designed' headstone to commemorate them properly."
  • Here's a description (from the screenplay, but I'm quoting from a different Spignesi book for this one -- The Lost Work of Stephen King) of one of the resurrected Boors: "[He] looks more like an overcooked roast with nothing but black sockets running dark-colored fluids where its eyes and nose should be.  The teeth make us realize it is a face.  The grinning teeth that seem to be trying to shape the rotting flesh around them, trying to speak, but just rasping, gurgling." 

  • We learn of the specifics of the deaths of most of the Regi-Men: "Regi-Man #2 was killed by having his neck torn open."  "Regi-Man #3 was killed by being flung head-first into the giant video screen of the Big League Bowlathon bowling game.  His head bowled a strike."  "Regi-Man #4 was killed by being flung face first into the hot dog rotisseries.  The rotisserie prongs bit into his head and his face was then melted by the microwaves."

  • A quote from Romero's script about the final game of the Bad News Boors: "The director (and the effects people) will have to choreograph this final shot for the best effect, so I won't describe it in too much detail.  What we see, basically, is a parody of team-night, with the BAD NEWS BOORS, each charred to a flaking, decaying crisp, drinking bloody beers, giving each other the high-fives (and losing a few over-cooked fingers each time)."
  • Two bits of parting wisdom from the Creep are given, both quoted from the screenplay: "Oh, well, Reggie Rambeaux always was  Heh, heh, heh."  "Remember, kiddies, bad luck always comes to the greedy."

In analyzing all of this, I find that I don't have a whole heck of a lot to say.  I mean, look . . . you either are or aren't the kind of person who would be likely to enjoy a story in which zombies bowl with severed heads.  Odds are, you either chuckle a bit upon hearing that or you frown and shake your head disapprovingly.

It's a chuckle all the way, for me.  So in critiquing this comic, the question becomes this: if it's a funny joke, has it been told well?  King told it to Romero, who told it to Spignesi, who told it to me; and somebody told it Jason Mayoh.  I sorta mixed up his version with Spignesi's when I told you about the joke.  So if you haven't laughed, do we blame King for that?  Seems unfair.  Do we blame me, or Mayoh, or Romero, or Spignesi instead?  All of the above?

If you did laugh, who gets the credit?

I don't know for sure, but I suspect that Chooch Mandolino would say, "Who gives a shit?!?  Just laugh!"

My feeling is that everyone we've been talking about has done right by "Pinfall" at each stage of the process.  King came up with a funny idea that perfectly fit within the Creepshow mold; he handed it off to Romero, who understood that mold as well as King did, and adapted it from King's notes into a proper screenplay.  Having read that screenplay, Spignesi summarized it all for us, and since he more or less knew what the average King fan was into, he made the story/screenplay seem like exactly what it is: a thing most King fans would enjoy.

This brings us to Jason Mayoh.
In illustrating/adapting the Romero screenplay, Mayoh is the first person to bring a full-narrative version of "Pinfall" to the public.  King hasn't done that; Romero hasn't done that; Spignesi hasn't done that.  Mayoh has done that, on behalf of Arrow Video.  I find myself asking: did the joke survive the retelling?

I think it absolutely did.  I could carp about a few elements of it.  There are a lot of spelling and punctuation errors.  Like, a lot of them.  But for all I know, this is a faithful transcription of Romero's screenplay, so should we blame Mayoh for these errors?  Shit, he might even have had a letterer who is at fault.  Errors like that in a professional publication always make me grit my teeth, but ultimately, I can let 'em slide if I enjoy the story enough.  I enjoyed this one quite a bit, and ended up thinking the errors almost worked to the story's benefit; they kind of represent the Bad News Boors in some way, don't they?

I could also carp about a few of the alterations Mayoh has (possibly) made to the story.  Nothing in Spignesi's synopsis mentions that an undead J. Fred MacDougal joins the Boors for their final game; did Mayoh invent that?  Conversely, Spignesi is quite specific about how that 7-10 split goes down; is the fact that it is different here Mayoh's work?  It seems likely; but do we know for sure that he wasn't working from a different draft of the Romero screenplay than the one Spignesi read?

Bottom line is, the best way to enjoy this is to simply treat it as an adaptation.  Either way, just experience it; don't get too hung up on the intricacies of the adaptation process.  From that mindset, I would say that Mayoh's work conveys a great deal of goony charm.  Much of this is the result of the charms present in King and Romero's story, but some of it may be courtesy of Mayoh himself.  Either way, it works.  This feels like Creepshow to me, through and through; mission accomplished in that regard.

How does it work as a comic book in its own right?

For me, a comic lives and dies on the strength of its art.  If it's got the best story and dialogue ever written but has lousy art, then it's shit in my eyes.  I like what Mayoh has done here quite a bit.  It's no Jack Davis, but Jesus Christ, even Berni Wrightson (in the original Creepshow comic) didn't clear that hurdle.  Mayoh's art is its own thing, and it works for me.  It's cartoony, but why wouldn't it be?  The cartoony-ness serves to sell the humor; a realistic approach would have been 100% the wrong approach.  Alex Ross's "Pinfall" -- can you imagine?!?

I like Mayoh's character designs.  Check out his version of Chooch:

Now, on the one hand, he doesn't look a thing in the world like Donkey Kong.  Which is fine; preferable, even.  Not even Wreck-It-Ralph looks all that much like Donkey Kong, and that's basically what he is.  What Mayoh's Chooch looks like is a likeable guy named Chooch, who drinks beer and does nice things for old men and is generally a guy you'd enjoy knowing.  He reminds me more than a bit of my friend Eric's late, great father; and that dude was well worth knowing.
I also like the Boor who only ever says "definitely"; he looks like the kind of guy who'd have little to say, but who'd say it frequently.

Check out these pages:

There's something kinda funny about the way that Econoline goes sailing off the cliff.  And that's how it should be.  You couldn't do this in a realistic vein and then expect me to laugh later when they kill a guy with a hot dog rack.  And trust me, I want to laugh at that; I did laugh at that.  So I laugh at this, too.

I also like the fact that the Boors all have their eyes closed right before they go off that cliff.  These are happy-go-lucky fellas; the fact that they go out grinning, enjoying some tunes, and being pleased to be in each others' company seems fitting.  If you are some agent of the afterlife, these are the guys you want to grant an undead revenge to.  Those exact happy fuckers right there.

Mayoh has some good layouts, too:

I'm a sucker for a nine-panel page in general, and I'm specifically a sucker for a nine-panel page on which there is an interesting layout.  There are four Regi-Men, so Mayho here has given them the corners, with Reggie himself holding the center; and surrounding those panels are four panels of successful pinfalls.  I mean, I flat-out love this page.

And that's part of what makes Mayoh's "Pinfall" work for me.  He didn't phone this adaptation in.  He treated it with respect, and part of that respect involved making it a comic-book first, and an adaptation second: he made it work for the medium within which it was being adapted.  A great many adaptors fail to do that; and I'm not talking merely about comics here, I'm talking about movie writers/directors/producers who spend gazillions of dollars on adaptations without realizing that they need to first concern themselves with making a good movie, and THEN concern themselves with making a good adaptation.  To be honest, if this comic had failed to even take that into consideration, it would have been fine by me.  It was what I expected; that I got a comic that respects both the medium AND the source material is icing on the Nathan-Grantham's-head cake.

So all in all, I'm pretty thrilled by this comic's existence.  I didn't expect to ever really get to experience "Pinfall" in any meaningful way.  I'd read the bits-'n'-bobs about it in the sources I mentioned earlier, and figured that'd be about all I ever got.  Instead, I've now been able to enjoy a fully-narrativized comic-book version, and my King-story collection seems a bit more complete than it did before.  In all honesty, that puts a smile on my face, and I send a big thank-you to Jason Mayoh and to whoever at Arrow Video enabled this.  I wish more King fans were able to read it, but since I'm one of the ones who snuck in before the gate closed, I'm pleased as punch.

A few parting images:

"SOLD OUT!" indeed.  Let's hope that's not a permanent condition.


  1. So far today -as the kids enjoy their Satrday morning cartoons - I've been alternating (as I can) between your blog and my new edition of Beahm's SK Companion. It's a very Stephen King Saturday! Can't say I mind.

    Thanks for scanning all of this in. Some scattered reactions from a frequently-interrupted read of this post:

    (1) This edition seems of higher production value than the film itself. Just that slipcover/painting alone, never mind the comic book. What a cool thing to make available - kudos to you, Arrow Video.

    (2) Chooch Mandolino is indeed worth the price of admission alone.

    (3) Fun story, reminds me of a few similar EC ones, but that's the beauty of EC/ Creepshow; they're all playing with the same toys. And they're awesome, and gross, and in wonderfully bad taste. The kind of stuff junior high was made for, and I mean that as a high compliment. But mostly this looks amusingly told. I was reminded of the one in Bazaar of Bad Dreams a little about the two families having that fireworks competition that goes too far, as well.

    (4) A Voodoo Doll just like Real Haitian Witch Doctors Use? Sign me up.

    1. (1) You're not wrong -- there's a let's-take-care-of-what-we've-got feel to the Blu-ray that is NOT present in the movie itself.

      (3) "Drunken Fireworks" lacks only some sort of comeuppance for some amoral characters, and it could fit right in. I didn't mention this in my review, but as I thought about "Pinfall," I could only think of the Coen Brothers to direct it. They've got the right approach to silliness. And I can just as easily imagine them doing "Drunken Fireworks."

  2. Bryant thanks for spending so much time on this. I think I didn't buy this bc I don't have region free dvd player.
    Those arrow releases always sound great.
    I might passed bc I had just watched it and I really don't like the wraparound animation, it's so bad as far as quality and voice work.

    The style looks very Archie to me, which is pretty cool.
    I had always thought from reading the articles you mentioned above that it would end with the body parts being the bowling pins. I'm not sure if I made that up in my head or if Romero had said that.

    1. That's how I had always read it. I like it better this way, though; too hard to get those limbs to stay in place to be bowled over.

      I agree that the animation is fairly lousy in the movie. It's part-and-parcel with the reduced budget, and as such, I have grown accustomed to it. They did the best with what they had; could have been better, I guess, but so it goes!

  3. It's sort of funny.

    I'm late on arrival for this outing, yet this comes at the end of a day when I've cracked open "The Talisman" for the first time with a full intent to read from start to finish (not part of any New Year's resolution, just something I thought I'd try). I've done this while alternating between the King narrated "Bag of Bones audiobook. So in a way, it's a nice bit of synchonicity.

    1. My guess is the question of whether it was a missing short-story or a script is going to probably be one of the great minor debates in fandom. Either that it's something that will barely register on the radar, but a man can dream.

    2. I am one of the few 80s kids who never caught J. Fred Muggs (though I heard about him later), yet I have clear memories of watching a rerun of "Lancelot Link" at least once during my childhood. Something like that needs to be brought back (David Lynch, are listening?).

    3. In terms of artwork, I will say that I was reminded a bit of "Heavy Metal", the movie, not the magazine. It even looked a bit like Wrightson to me. That said, I can't tell if the artwork is meant to suggest the aftermath of J. Fred's Big Win, or else they're trying to suggest that the impact of his fall was enough to make the last pin fall over.

    4. "The Boors let MacDugal throw a couple balls, and on his last shot he has a massive coronary, and ends up flying down the lane with the ball and finally making the 7-10 split...the hard way." For some reason, that description has remained in my head all the way up to now. "The Boors are Back in Town" would be an honorable second.

    5. If this were ever turned into a film, I wouldn't mind hearing this song played over the action at the beginning and end. Back then it would have been plagiarism, nowadays it might plays as referential allusion and homage.

    6. All in all, a nice little EC pastiche. I wish I had a copy as well.

    7. Don Knotts? Is that you?

    Now might be the perfect time to jump into Owen King's "Intro to Alien Invasion". I've read it already, but I'll hold my thoughts for the right post.


    1. I dig that "Bag of Bones" audiobook. I dig any King-narrated audiobook, actually; I believe his reading of "The Gunslinger" was the first one I ever heard, and it's still my all-time favorite.

      1. I'd love for there to be an actual short-story version, but I'm content with it as-is. What I'd really love is for there to be an official King-centric "Creepshow 3," with this story as a centerpiece.

      2. "Lancelot Link"! I had a storybook featuring him, and it was one of my absolute favorites as a wee lad. He deserves his own reboot, for sure.

      3. Hmm...! I had not thought of that. Good catch!

      4. Believe it or not, "The Boors Are Back In Town" is an idea that occurred to me, too. Great minds think alike!

      5. I vote yes to this. Any "Creepshow 3" should absolutely be "set" in the "eighties."

      6. I can only hope it will get wider distribution in some way.

      7. Another good catch! It is indeed a Knotts look-alike; Romero's screenplay specifies that, or so Spignesi -- I think it was Spignesi -- reported. I'd intended to put that in my post somewhere, but I seem to have omitted it.

      As for "Intro to Alien Invasion," I feel literal regret every time I remember I have yet to read that (or "The Fireman," "End of Watch," etc.). This must change SOON.

  4. Dammit these are going for 100 + on ebay..... are they worth it ?

    1. Depends on whether the comic ever gets reprinted. If it doesn't, then this is likely your only chance to ever own a version of "Pinfall," and that price won't ever go down. but if it does get reprinted at some point, then no, absolutely it's not worth $100.

      So overall, it's hard to say.

  5. I'm kind of a horror anthology lunatic but I hardly watch this one. It's bad but not campy, I think the producers missed the point or they did but didn't care. The Raft is ok but it really just looks like a floating trashbag.
    I love that anthologies are making a comeback even some of them are dog turds(I'm looking at you 3/4s of the VHS filmakers) but Southbound was pretty awesome. Christmas Tales and Tales of Halloween all had their moments and Trick R Treat is a classic.

    1. I've heard that one is good; I'll have to check it out eventually.

  6. Bryant, have you watched Just Desserts yet? I can't bring myself to pay $15 for what should be a dvd bonus feature.
    Same with the Pet Semetary one released today.

    1. I've seen both. "Just Desserts" would get a B+ from me, "Unearthed & Untold" a B-.

  7. I have a copy of the screenplay and the dead JFred do indeed join the dead Boors as an undead himself.

  8. Hello Bryan,
    Can you please help me understand if the scans that you shared in this article correspond to the entire comics?
    If I look at the files number, that seems incomplete, for instance going from : Pinfall (4).jpg to #7

    Jeremy / Club Stephen King

    1. No, those scans represent only some of the comic. I did not want to include it all as that would be too close to piracy for comfort.